I am a master student at one of the best universities in Europe. As I am studying finance, I would like to have an experience in the US or London.

I will have to start working on my master thesis next year, and I would like to use this opportunity to go abroad to an important institution; my idea would be to write to a professor and ask him if he would be interested in co-supervising my master thesis; I would not be paid of course but would enjoy the experience.

Is this considered proper or is it rude / weird?

Of course I will look at professor that works in an area that interests me, but I probably wouldn't be able to specify a particular topic right now (I will do an internship next semester where I plan to find a particular problem to work on, but I don't know yet).

The start of this thesis would be next year, but I think I should start contacting people now for this kind of proposal.

So in conclusion is this something that happens? Should I really do more research before contacting a professor? How can such an interaction be phrased?

  • 1
    It's a bit odd to me, that you're seeking a host institution in the middle of a program, rather than, say, finishing your master's and looking where to do a PhD, but otherwise I find it quite normal. I got into my PhD program by composing an e-mail to my current head of department. He replied enthusiastically and invited me to give a presentation. The field is physics, so your mileage may vary.
    – LLlAMnYP
    Apr 25, 2016 at 15:19
  • @LLlAMnYP I don't know how it works in the US, but here (France) it takes a lot of time to complete all the forms for securing funding and so on. Plus you have to wait for the committee's response and whatnot. If "next year" means "this September", then I think it would even be a little late to start searching... If it really means "next year" it's early though. And if you plan to start a PhD right after your master you obviously cannot wait until your master is done to start searching.
    – user9646
    Apr 25, 2016 at 17:40
  • @NajibIdrissi I'm not sure why you mentioned US. My profile shows Germany. This is true, one cannot wait. I met my boss in September, my defence was due in February, I started as a PhD student in March. This is all irrelevant, since it seems, that OP is in the middle of a master's program and is looking for an advisor for his master thesis project.
    – LLlAMnYP
    Apr 25, 2016 at 18:19
  • @LLlAMnYP I mentioned US because the OP said he was looking to go to the US (and London, but I overlooked that when I wrote my comment).
    – user9646
    Apr 25, 2016 at 18:30
  • Personally, this arrangement would work if (i) it comes from a reputable university, (ii) from a staff member (not student), (iii) there is some memorandum of understanding (MoU) or some official process to acknowledge my involvement, (iv) trust; i.e., I won't get screw out of my time helping you. Hopefully (i) to (iii) help with (iv), but it's not 100%. Apr 25, 2016 at 23:28

2 Answers 2


A few students work with professors from another department of the same school, and in a few cases, their advisor has recently moved schools, but mostly most students are advised by professors in their own department.

In my limited experience, professors are interested in supervising thesis projects only when they have a preexisting relationship with the student.When i was a student, I once asked a professor to advise my master's project and was told, "no, you have to take my class first".

It's more than helpful to cultivate relationships that will support your work, but when you cold-call people, avoid asking them to trust you or commit to work with you.


My advice is that of finding a supervisor at your university who has contacts in the countries of your interest, who knows you well from past courses, and who would be willing to support you, and ask them if they can intercede for you and act as local supervisors (you would need one anyway).

I happened to receive 3-4 requests from former students of mine who would have liked to do their Master's thesis abroad, especially in the US (but not only). What I do in these cases is to explain to the student with which groups I am in contact and what type of research they do. Then, if the student looks interested in a specific group, I ask them their CV and write to the group abroad something like (a recent example):


I'm writing on behalf of a student of mine who is studying toward his/her Master's degree in Engineering, and would be very happy to have the opportunity to do his/her Master's thesis in [country]. She/he is thus looking for a possible internship at [institute] with your group, with a topic to be defined according to your current research topics. In the attached zip file you can find her/his cover letter, CV and recommendation letters (she/he reads in CC, and he/she can provide further information if needed).

[Other pieces of information about funding]

Cheers, Max

Disclaimer: I'm in a small field where collaborations are especially with research institutes and not with universities, and the above might not apply to other fields.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .